A possible rapprochement between Syria and Türkiye, as several Arab countries have reconciled with Damascus government.
This rapprochement has the greatest weight in determining the future of Syria and restricting the influence of the United States and the European Union on the future of the region.
According to Turkish Daily Sabah newspaper, the pivotal role that Türkiye plays in the future of Syria, given their history and common interests, makes the normalization of relations an urgent matter in both countries.
However, Assad dispelled the idea of holding a meeting with the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in light of the current position.
From the Turkish standpoint, normalization with Assad may serve Turkish interests in two ways:
First: any future cooperation between Damascus and Ankara in confronting terrorists PKK and YPG/PYD.
Second: any future cooperation between Damascus and Ankara will resolve the issue of returning the 3.5 million Syrian refugees residing in Türkiye.
The Syrian president said in an interview with Sky News Arabia last month that he wouldn’t meet Erdogan without conditions, most notably the withdrawal of Turkish forces from Syria, but Erdogan follows an open door to Assad policy, according to his previous statement, pointing at the same time to the issue of withdrawal is out of the question.
According to Daily Sabah, the problem is that the two concerned sides have different interpretations about who constitutes “terrorism”.
In other words, Türkiye’s priorities are the People’s Protection Units (YPG) group in northern Syria, while Assad’s priorities are the Turkish-backed Syrian opposition in the northwest.
There is another obstacle to reaching a mutually satisfactory agreement, which is Assad’s accusation that Türkiye is a guardian of the Idlib enclave outside the government’s control.
The daily Sabah pointed out that the main motive behind Türkiye’s control of Idlib in northwestern Syria is to prevent Syrian refugees from flowing into Türkiye, especially on the eve of the municipal elections, which will be held in 2024 amid negative Turkish feelings towards Syrian refugees.
The daily Sabah considered that the internal environment in Türkiye plays a role in an influential role in changing policy towards Damascus, as Ankara has realized that it’s too late to insist on changing the Syrian leadership, and is now seeking to find ways to negotiate with Assad.
If the right conditions are created, “Ankara hopes that Syrian refugees in Türkiye will return to Syria and be welcomed with humane standards of living”.
This would also strengthen Ankara’s hand against the PKK, YPG/PYD, which are supported by the United States in northern Syria.
In Regard of Syria, as the Syrian economy is getting worse, Damascus has no choice but to reconcile with Türkiye during the era of Erdogan.
The Turkish president has the greatest ability to maintain friendly relations with both Washington and Moscow to facilitate stability in the region, therefore, it’s in Assad’s interest to seek reconciliation with Erdogan.
The recent political scene, and the statements and positions it contains, indicate that the course of the talks between Türkiye and Syria faces several obstacles, despite Russian talk about coordinating to hold a meeting between Erdogan and Assad.
On the one hand, Assad asserts that any flexibility he will offer to the Turkish side in order to restore relations is mainly linked to the immediate and urgent withdrawal of Turkish forces from Syrian territory.
On the other hand, Türkiye considers this condition meaningless, as it has no intention of withdrawing in the near future, unless the terrorist threat disappears from its borders with Syria.
Türkiye is the only neighboring country that has been more affected than others by the Syrian war since 2011.
The daily Sabah said that compared to Damascus’s other allies, i.e. Iran and Russia, Türkiye has the right to control the buffer zone along its border with Syria.
Türkiye has the right to control the buffer zone to settle many of the Syrian refugees who have flowed near its borders, while at the same time sheltering 3.7 million Syrian refugees within Turkish territory.
The daily Sabah concluded, “Türkiye’s normalization with Syria isn’t only possible, but also urgent for both Syrians in Syria and Syrian immigrants who live as guests in Turkish territory”.
In a report last Tuesday, the Voice of America website said that Russia will be the key to breaking the stalemate in relations between Türkiye and the Syrian president.
For eight months, Russia has been managing the process of building dialogue between Erdogan and Assad, by holding meetings between the two parties, the last of which was last May, which brought together foreign ministers.
In light of Assad’s adherence to the withdrawal condition, which Türkiye rejects, Russia is still talking about the possibility of holding a meeting between Assad and Erdogan.
Russia is trying to find a formula for the agreement between the two parties, allowing Turkish forces to remain in Syria within an agreement.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last week that his country had proposed to the Syrian leadership and Türkiye to conclude an agreement that would allow Turkish forces to remain on Syrian territory legitimately.
Lavrov added, “During informal contacts, we proposed returning to the philosophy of 1998, when the Adana Agreement was signed”.
He added, “This agreement assumed the existence of a terrorist threat, and in order to stop this terrorist threat, Türkiye would have the right to be present in Syria, by sending its counter-terrorism services to a certain depth of Syrian territory.
The Russian Foreign Minister considered that all documents and outcomes of the Astana talks urge respect for Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Lavrov pointed out that the guarantor countries, including Türkiye, always sign these documents.